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Home » Injured Workers » Injury Management- What is happening and When? » 12 Months and Beyond » Worker Issues, Social Issues Financial Issues

Worker Issues, Social Issues Financial Issues

 

It was mentioned in previous sections that as well as the factors outlined above return to work out comes can be and often are affected by many factors intrinsic to the worker. 
 
Some of these factors included:
  • Fundamental drive and need to get back to work 
  • Resilience to the setbacks that are likely to have occurred
  • Stress levels and mental health having had a work place injury and being integrated into the worker compensation systems.
 
Assuming all has gone well and none of the barriers outlined above are present the internal drivers that will influence a successful return to work outcome include:
 
  • General health and fitness prior to injury
  • Previous injuries or illness
  • The personality of the worker
  • Internal resilience
  • What the job meant for the worker before injury and general satisfaction levels
  • Perceived satisfaction / dissatisfaction levels with the job
  • Adaptability -  to making changes in life style and attitude and accommodate injury
 
After 12 months in the NSW workers system even the most resilient, motivated workers are likely to find their life situation stressfull, particularly if their injury has not recovered or nearly recovered.
By 12 months most injured workers are likely to have experienced:
  • Financial difficulties - pay not arriving on time, pay not taking into consideration real preinjury earnings, upfront costs such as for medications or travel not reimbursed in a timely manner
  • Delays in approvals for specialist referrals, investigative tests or new treatment
  • Conflicts between stakeholders over treatment issues  - such as what is “reasonable and necessary” 
  • Bullying by stakeholders, or “perception” of  bullying by stakeholders particularly agents, some  rehabilitation providers and some employers
  • Communication breakdown between parties particularly when the desired outcome of increased job capacity doesn’t occur and there is a perception that one or more parties are not working efficiently or encouraging malingering
  • Resultant stress on the injured worker and other stakeholders
  • Secondary depression experienced by the injured worker
  • Changes and reduction in motivation
  • Secondary physical and mental health problems  such as anxiety depression, poor life style habits, loss of physical activity, diet, and lifestyle change, social avoidance, relationship conflicts.
 

What can you do? What you need to consider? 
 
Unfortunately for most workers who have had injuries, that have resulted in the person still remaining in the workers compensation system 12 or more months down the track, there will have been many events and setbacks that they have had little or no control over.  For most people in such situations, and with uncertainty about the future, there is a high likelihood of worry and associated problems with anxiety and depression. 

Although there are many areas of an injured worker’s life that they may feel they have little or no control, most injured workers DO have more control and influence on their life situation than they may realise. To regain control however often requires getting support, especially initially and the result will not be instant.  In the following sections the areas where control can be regained and exercised are outlined:
 

Get a good team - NTD, specialists, and solicitor


The Workers Compensation system has many stakeholders, with vested interests and opinions about the way things should be done.  Some of these are enshrined in legislation or “Workcover Guidelines”. Many of the attitudes and practices of stakeholders however are not so much determined by the rules, but by beliefs, culture,  training or lack of decision makers such as insurers NTD,  specialists.
 
The healthiest environment for progress is one of team work and collaboration where all parties manage to agree upon and work towards common goals. 
The injured worker has some input into this in terms of:
  • Who they choose as their NTD
  • Who they choose as their solicitor
  • How they communicate to  their support  team-  i.e. advising of problems or difficulties rather than wait until they are overwhelming
  • How they attempt to deal with difficulties that arise  -  i.e. with agents. By staying patient, communicating concerns and problems, and knowing when or when not to escalate a problem is a skill.
 

Know your rights

 
These include right to choose:
 
  • Your NTD
  • Your treatment provider
  • Your Rehabilitation provider
  • Claim for necessary travel expenses to and from appointments you go made via your NTD or organised by the agent
  • Get medication and other treatments/ expenses reimbursed
  • Request assessment of your home or workplace to identify aids or support service that can assist you while you recover
  • Reasonable cost associated with retraining can be paid -  i.e. courses, some mandatory equipment
 

Know your obligations

 
These include:
  • Attending appointments organised by your NTD or agent
  • Attending appointments on time
  • Notifying of change of circumstances -  i.e. part time work,  change in number of dependents
  • Your inability to attend an appointment in advance of scheduled date

Know where to get help and in what situations


These were outlined in the first information doc - time of injury to 1 month.
To summarise who can help for what:
 
  • Your NTD For general information about your injury, work readiness, general medical and health concerns  related to your injury
  • Psychologist or Counsellor is available for problems dealing with the effect your injury is having on your life socially, psychologically, at work, with relationships, your future. They are also available for primary psychological injuries such as trauma and major depression caused by major catastrophic event of trauma

Know who can’t help you so you don’t waste your time and energy

Your NTD is the first port of call for medical or treatment issues - you need to let them know what is happening and of changes in your physical or psychological health.  A doctor with good listening a communication skills is essential.
In first instance for non-payment issues such as wages, travel expenses, medications not being paid or not on time contact your Agent. You can also contact the Workcover hotline (if problems persist), a call to Workcover has been known to speed up processing times considerably. The Workcover Hotline is also useful for delays in approval for specialist referrals, surgery, and for investigative procedures.
 
 
 
Your Solicitor can help for:
 
  • Denial of claim if you believe your claim is valid and declination is unreasonable, for treatment expenses being refused after efforts made to discuss and negotiate with agent by NTD or other professional involved in service have failed
  • To claim for lump sum for impairment
  • To make a common law claim if impairment is significant and employer may have been negligent
 

Look after yourself - physical health

 

Medication Use/Abuse


After 12 months of injury related symptoms a range of injury related medicines may have been tried to help with pain relief or treatment of associated symptoms. Some of these medications may cause side effects, adverse reactions or interactions with other drugs. Some medicines can cause dependence and tolerance.  It is important to be aware of what medications are for, desired effects and benefits as well as possible side effects, interactions or adverse reactions.  Your own research and discussion with  a health potential is essential for people taking medications over a prolonged period of time.


Non Prescribed Use


There is also a tendency of some injured workers to use prescribed or legal medications outside guidelines leading to risks of adverse reactions and side effects.   Similarly some prescribed medications used socially or combined with alcohol and cigarettes are sometimes used excessively by injured workers who are struggling to cope with their situation or injury.  Illicit drugs normally  used sparingly by some people may be used increasingly after an injury for their analgesic effect - e.g. marijuana, however drug interactions, dependence are possible and a risk worthy of careful consideration.
 
 

Don’t stop physical activity


Substantial Injuries rarely affect only the injured body part. They affect the ease of performing activities of daily living and through problems such as sleep deprivation and associated depression have the effect of lowering  motivation and drive to be active.  In turn general physical deconditioning occurs and can be associated with other health issues ( such as obesity), particularly when diet and food intake regulation is neglected. 

Although a physical or psychological injury does limit the ease physical activities that can be undertaken, it is essential to maintain a reasonable level of health and fitness.  Discussion with your NTD or another health professional can be very helpful for coming up with options you can do despite your injury.


Don’t abandon your social network

 
People who are injured often find they can’t do things they use to like play sports or other recreational activities they use to enjoy. Frequently new ones have not been taken up.  Hobbies and interests are often a source of meeting new people and friendships.  Many injured workers who aren’t able to participate in activities they use to prior to injury haven’t taken up new activities in the first 12 months and tend to become socially isolated.  Depression and anxiety can compound the tendency to social withdrawal and isolation.


What you need to consider:

 
  • Don’t isolate yourself 
  • Reach out to people you are comfortable with and who care
  • Develop new hobbies and interests


Look after your mental health

 

Family dynamics - People who have sustained a substantial injury often can’t do things as they use to at home and need assistance and support.  Often  the injured person’s way of dealing with their injury is not helpful with family relationships, - irritability, anger, mood swings, with drawl  and can put strain on relationships. Psychological and rehabilitation support is often essential when injury symptoms  impact on the lives of family members.

Concentration and memory - people experiencing chronic and acute pain, sleep depression, injury related agitation and depression have problems concentrating and remembering all they need to do. Use off a diary and doing a fewer things over a longer time frame are steps towards accommodating and adjusting to injury and temporary impaired concentration difficulties.

Getting the balance right  The secret to longer term injury is getting the balance right  -  doing too much and reinjuring  or becoming overwhelmed vs doing little or another and losing further function phalli and psychotically

Accepting the need for help - An injury and changed life circumstance that goes on for a year pose many significant challenges for most people, and can often be overwhelming. Support and guidance is often essential in navigating the various obstacles, physically psychologically and with the system.  Don’t be afraid to seek help and guidance when you need it.

 

 

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